Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Timing is everything

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled garlicky pork tenderloin
  • whole-wheat couscous
  • garlic-kissed carrots and peas
Hey, everyone! Sorry for the long break in posting there. I haven't been making much of anything new, and it seems boring to write about the same meals over and over when all of the recipes are already available on the right-hand sidebar there. I didn't make much of anything new tonight either, but ... well, I kind of missed the ol' blog! What can I say?

So, the tenderloin! All I did was mash up some garlic cloves, kosher salt, fresh oregano (from my herb patch), freshly ground pepper, fresh lemon juice and EVOO in my mortar and pestle, then pour it over a couple of pork tenderloins in a plastic zipper bag. These only marinated for about an hour, but you could certainly do them much longer than that. I grilled them over high heat for a total of 20-23 minutes or so, turning every few minutes to brown them all over. Then I sliced them into 1/2-inch slices before serving. Yummy!

The couscous was just done according to the package directions. I far prefer quinoa to couscous and think it tends to pack more of a nutritional punch, but DH and the boy child like couscous. I compromise by buying the whole-wheat variety, which I can only find at, of all places, my local liquor store! They sell specialty foods there, too. (Spec's, for those of you in Texas.)

The carrot dish was the only relatively "new" thing I cooked tonight. I peeled a bunch of carrots and cut them into chunks, then steamed them in the microwave until they were tender. Then I sauteed them in a bit of butter, along with some fresh green peas from my garden (I picked and shelled them while the pork was grilling) and one tiny minced garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper and you're done! The boy had thirds of this dish! It was really yummy -- I will definitely make this again.

I don't know if I've ever talked about this before on the blog, but I am kind of anal about my meal prep and making sure everything is done at more or less the same time. This can be a HUGE challenge for the home cook when making an entire meal from scratch and it was a real source of frustration for me when I first started cooking whole meals for my family of four. I don't know if this will help anyone, but here were the steps I took to get this meal on the table:
  1. Prepare marinade for pork (at least an hour ahead of time; can do this the night before if you want) and stick pork in the fridge.
  2. Light grill about 40 minutes before you want to serve the meal (for gas; if you're using charcoal then adjust your time accordingly).
  3. While grill is heating, peel and cut carrots and steam them in the microwave (do not remove from microwave until ready to saute).
  4. Put water on to boil for couscous.
  5. While water is boiling, mince a clove of garlic for the carrots and set aside.
  6. Put couscous in boiling water, cover and take off the heat (this can sit for quite a while).
  7. Make a gin & tonic to take outside with you. Hee! What?
  8. Put pork on grill.
  9. Pick peas.
  10. Turn pork.
  11. Shell peas.
  12. Remove pork from grill, tent with foil and let rest.
  13. While pork is resting, saute carrots and peas with garlic. Remove from heat and cover.
  14. Slice pork and put on serving platter.
  15. Fluff couscous with a fork and put in serving bowl.
  16. Dump veggies into serving bowl.
  17. Soup's on!
It doesn't seem like that many steps when you're doing it, I swear. Or ... that might be the gin & tonic talking.

Do you guys want me to do this for all the meals I post? Would it be helpful at all, or is it information overload? Let me know!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tough cuts

Tonight's Menu

  • grilled marinated steaks
  • roasted potato wedges
  • caramelized brussels sprouts
The steaks I made tonight were labeled "chuck shoulder steaks" and were dirt cheap, which is why I bought them. They were large but cut really thin, maybe a third of an inch. I had never worked with chuck shoulder steaks before, though I have cooked chuck roasts and shoulder roasts, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. Tougher cuts like this tend to need either slow cooking at a low temperature for a long period of time, or really fast cooking over really high heat for a really short period of time. I decided to go with the latter and grill them.

First, I marinated them for about three hours in a mixture of red wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt, pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, and a small amount of Worcestershire sauce. I think this went a long way toward helping tenderize the meat. Then I grilled them over high heat for only three minutes per side (did I mention they were SUPER thin?), letting them rest for about five minutes before serving. I'm really happy with how these came out -- they had a fantastic flavor and weren't tough at all! Success!

For the potato wedges, I just cut some russet potatoes into fourths lengthwise, plopped them onto a foil-lined baking sheet, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper. Then I stuck them in the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes. This turned out to be a tad too long, actually -- they were chewier on the outside than I would have liked. Tasty, though! Next time I'll knock back the time or the temperature, or both.

The brussels sprouts were trimmed and cut in half, then steamed in the microwave until crisp-tender. I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then added the sprouts along with just a bit of red wine vinegar and sugar to help speed the caramelization along. Once they had gone golden, I sprinkled on a bit of salt and pepper and served 'em up! I LOVED brussels sprouts prepared this way!